Skip to main content

CRJU 361 Criminal Justice Research Methods: Literature Review

Fall 2018

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a systematic synthesis of research on a particular topic or research question, a kind of "state of the art in research" on the topic. It is important to remember that it is not simply a summary of sources, but a synthesis of their findings, identifying the results of earlier research, the principal scholars who have addressed the question, and unresolved issues and questions, that is, "gaps" in our knowledge of the topic. Literature reviews usually occur as parts of larger studies (such as articles, books, and theses), but can also stand alone. For more details on how to write a literature review, see the Literature Review libguide.

Process of a Literature Review

The process of writing a literature review is not necessarily a linear process, you will often have to loop back and refine your topic, try new searches and altar your plans. The info graphic above illustrates this process.  It also reminds you to continually keep track of your research by citing sources and creating a bibliography.

  1. Topic - Decide on a research topic or question. The formulation of a thesis will help get your process started. This may have to be revisited as you work on your research.
    • Know what the review is for; each assignment will offer the purpose for the review.  For example, is it for “background”, or a “pro and con discussion”, "integration", “summarizing”, etc.
    • Create a “search plan”, decide where you will search for information, what type of information you will need.
  2. Research  - Preform Searches; choose sources and collect information to use in your paper. Make sure you cite the sources used.
  3. Think - Analyze information in a systematic manner and begin your literature review (e.g., summarize, synthesize, etc.). Make sure you cite the sources used.
  4. Complete - Write your paper, proof & revise and create your finished bibliography.

Elements in a Literature Review

APA Style

Your paper should follow the APA (American Psychological Association) style manual for documentation of your sources. There are two parts to APA citation that you need to keep in mind: in-text citations are brief references in the text of your paper using either a signal phrase or a parenthetical reference; the References list at the end of your paper contains full citations for all sources referenced.